The Observatory

Sep 2020

Design Guides and their impact on Placemaking

There is a lot of talk about ‘Radical Change’ around involving and engaging communities more in the planning processes across the UK.

The Covid lockdown has created for many a more hyper localised lifestyle and there is a bourgeoning level of interest by locals in their own communities, that could be harnessed to create robust local plans for the ongoing development of the cities, towns and villages within which we live.

Central to the idea of communities being more involved is the design and implementation of Placemaking strategies within the development process, which could be used to inform local plans and become a central premise to help unlock the housing sector.

Design Guides will become the core assets of this strategy and would be developed and tailored to reflect a particular communities placemaking ambition, with the suggestion that planning portfolio holders within local authorites should also encompass a specific placmeking remit within any development plan.

The Design Guides themselves need to become more implicit, within the current statutory guidelines, creating a particular sense of ‘place’ is often referred to, whilst any physical description of this is vague and the manifestation left to interpretation within a project construction process.

We all know Placemaking brings together many interrelated disciplines, from environmental design and architecture, to landscape, ecology, socio-economics, sustainability, communications and engagement.

As a result the terms ‘place’ tends to appear across a variety of development information layers from transport assessments to drainage strategies to heritage reports.

There are also of course the less tangible aspects of creativity, innovation and the ability to both evolve and adapt to future change.

Anchored by people, Placemaking involves consideration of the physical, environmental and social aspects of a site or location and as such it is imperative that any visioning picks up on the core principles of making a place and feeds into any Design Guides being developed.

There has been a great deal of good work carried out over the years by CABE, The Design Council, Design for Homes and The Builders Federation, The National Policy Planning framework does offer a take that “Patterns of movement, streets, parking and other transport considerations are integral to the design of schemes, and contribute to making high quality places”.

However when it comes down to it any Placemaking ‘Design Guide’ is only as informed as the community vision it pertains to represent and in the current climes with our hyper local focus srely communities are clambering to get on board with there views.